Photo credit: BertinBulonza

More than 400 dead and hundreds missing in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Torrential rains have devastated several villages and caused at least 400 deaths in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Torrential rains have devastated several villages and caused at least 400 deaths in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This region of eastern DRC, in a territory known as Kalehe in the province of South Kivu, is best known for repeated wars that have been going on since 1994.

The region experiences another form of disaster almost every season: deaths and damage due to torrential rains. A few years earlier, the locality of Bushushu was hit by a strong tornado in October 2014. The village had almost been wiped off the map. In addition, in November 2022, the bridge over the Luzira River was washed away.

More than a week after this recent rain, several families are yet to find their missing members. The most affected areas are Bushushu and Nyamukubi, particularly the localities along the Chirakara/Lwano, Lukungula, Nyamukubi, Kanyinyi, Chishova, Hundu, Nyamasasa, Mashango, Nyalugusha rivers, etcm in the groups of Mbinga-Nord and Ziralo. The injured survivors, who also number in the hundreds, are cared for by nearby but less equipped health structures. These include the general reference hospital of Ihusi in Kalehe-centre and that of Mwimbiri as well as the health center of Bushushu. 

On site, several observers fear a new cholera epidemic since the water sources have been ravaged and are filled with mud. There is no drinking water in the area and only potentially contaminated lake water is accessible. Humanitarians are mobilizing to provide emergency assistance and provide some relief to survivors.

A day of national mourning after the Kalehe disaster was declared on May 8 by the DRC government. The provincial government went to the scene the day after the tragedy, to present condolences to the families of the victims. “The state will pay for the funerals of those who died and the medical care of injured survivors. We will provide humanitarian assistance in food and non-food items to the survivors. We promise lasting solutions ranging from the reconstruction of destroyed infrastructure to the relocation of disaster victims,” said the governor of the province of South Kivu Théo Ngwabije. 

Stepping back, very few state institutions, public services and NGOs make the commitment to work towards the establishment of a real environmental protection plan including continuous actions to prevent natural disasters and mitigating their effects and impact on populations and infrastructure. 

Photo credit: Bertin Bulonza

Climate change awareness organisation Héritier de la Justice published a letter on May 8, 2023 arguing that major change is needed in order to prevent these natural disasters in the future.  

“We are ardently campaigning for massive public financial investment in favor of scientific research oriented in particular towards the prevention of disasters, like several countries frequently affected by tropical cyclones. 

The meteorological service, equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and well-trained quality personnel and working in association with the audio-visual media and social networks, will be able to alert the populations each time, warn them and protect them before heavy rains fall.